The CFA® Exam Cram Plan: The Last Minute Guide to the Exams

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By Sophie

Feeling like you’re running out of time?

OK, calm down and take a few deep breaths. For whatever reason, perhaps you’ve now find yourself way behind schedule with a few more weeks to the CFA exams, and you can’t finish your revision in time. 
 
What should you do? What areas to focus on if I don’t have enough time? How do I increase my chances of passing the exam? And before you ask another question or tear your hair out – read on. 

We put ourselves in your position and imagined what we could do (with a calmer state of mind) in such a situation. Using the 80/20 rule, we list best methods to control and minimise the damage, maximising your chances with the time you have left.

Cramming ain’t advisable. But if you have no choice, our CFA Exam Cram Plan should be the way to go.

Overview
The CFA exam topic weightings are as per the chart below.
 
Level I
Level II
Level III
Ethical and Professional Standards
15
10-15
10-15
Quantitative Methods
10
5-10
Value
Economics
10
5-10
5-10
Financial Reporting and Analysis
15
10-15
Corporate Finance
10
5-10
Equity Investments
11
10-15
10-15
Fixed Income
11
10-15
15-20
Derivatives
6
5-10
​5-10
Alternative Investments
6
​5-10
​5-10
Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning
6
5-15
35-40
Total
100
100
100

The overall strategy, given the lack of time, is to:

Identify the heavy-weighted areas that you absolutely need to focus on. But more importantly: choose a few that adds up to ~70%, taking into account your own ability/strength in those topics. 

This is quite a personal process as Equity Investment may come naturally to some of you, but not for others, for example. Only you can figure out your best strategic topics to focus on. 

My topic area advice below is general, assuming the common candidate weak areas as highlighted in CFA Exam Insights.


The Level I Cram Plan 
Format:

  • 2 x 120 MCQ at 3 hours each
Topic Focus

  1. Ethics (15%) – because it’s a must.
  2. FRA (15%)- Invest in this huge topic as it only gets ‘worse’ in Level II.
  3. Then you have some choices to make for the remaining topics: 
Large Topics (42%)
Quants (10%), Economics (10%),
Equity (11%) and Fixed Income (11%)
Little Topics (28%)
Derivatives (6%), Corp Finance (10%), Portfolio Mgmt (6%), Alt Inv (6%)
3 options to choose from:
(a) Complete all the Large Topics; or
(b) 3 Large Topics + 1 Little Topic; or
(c) 2 Large Topics + all Little Topics

Choose them based on objective assessment of your strengths in each topic. Once decided, just focus on reviewing those topics and completing practice questions, basically do a condensed version of the 5 step game plan

Remember you can get free CFA Exam Level I practice tests from us here:


The Level II Cram Plan
Format:

Topic Focus
In Level II it’s notoriously difficult to focus on a few topics as many of them are interrelated, and as you can see from above, it comes in ranges. 

  1. Ethics (10-15%) – because it’s a mustand you just need to learn one or two new concepts and the rest is similar to Level I. Easy way to cover some ground.
  2. Equity Investments and FRA (10-15%) – these are simply too big to ignore.
  3. Fixed Income (10-15%) – CFA Institute has upweighted Fixed Income and it is also important in Level III – make sure you get enough focus here.
  4. The rest: You’ll need to pick two or three more topics from the rest (all 5-10%) each. Choose your strong suit.

Once decided, just focus on reviewing those topics and get additional practice exams to try, basically do a condensed version of the 5 step game plan. No magic bullets, I’m afraid.

Also remember that you have a free mock exam from us that you can use here:


The Level III Cram Plan
Format:

Topic Focus
For this level, the topic concentration works in your favour, but knowing that nearly all of Level III candidates perform worse in essay questions may discourage you at first. But hey, our mission here (given the lack of time), is to maximise your chances of passing, and become a CFA charterholder – so my strategy would be to focus on acing the item set paper. Here’s a game plan:

  1. Ethics (10-15%) – because it’s a must, and they largely build on what you’ve learned in Level I-II. Easy way to cover some ground.
  2. Portfolio Management (35-40%) – If there’s one topic you need to cover (and only have time for) in Level III, focus on the varieties of Portfolio Management.
  3. Fixed Income (15-20%) – I’m afraid you can’t escape from this asset class here. 
  4. The rest: Review them only if you have time or are sure you can’t do more on the three topics above.  

To ace the item-set paper, you’d need to do tons of practice questions. Check what’s available on our Offers section, make sure you complete your CFA Institute mocks, so do supplement these with end-of-chapter questions from the curriculum as well. 

Then if you have more time, you can review these guides to answering IPS questions in the forum, both for Institutional and Individual Investors.

Also remember that you have a free mock exam from us that you can use here:


How are your preparations going? I hope it’s all going well and you’ve picked up some good tips to focus on here regardless. Update us in the comments below!
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